Season 10 of The Big Bang Theory continued Monday night with “The Military Miniaturization.” After the wedding commotion in last week’s premiere, this episode was a welcome treat of normal, everyday life drama to ease us back into the usual status quo. It also properly re-introduced what will most likely be the two main plot lines this season: Bernadette’s pregnancy and the boys’ guidance system.
Indeed, this episode splits into two stories that follow the guys and girls separately. On the girls’ side, Bernadette finds out that someone blabbed about her pregnancy at the office. Penny reveals to Amy (and later Bernadette herself) that she was the one who told, by complete accident. Bernadette is furious. Being pregnant could cost her an important research project. She demands Penny to get out of her office when she tells her that she let the news slip.
Bernadette’s scenario here is extremely important. When she later shares with Amy that she’s stressing, she desperately says, “I worked so hard to get where I am and I don’t want to have to start back at square one because I’m pregnant.” It’s an example of how real-life women are treated in the workplace, especially in scientific fields. Instead of being seen as equal “scientists” with male colleagues, women are often labeled “female scientists,” with pregnancy seen as a hindrance to their work performance.
The writers do a fantastic job of addressing this issue with Bernadette. After she apologizes to Penny for being harsh, she explains that she met with her boss, who’s still deciding who will lead the project. The writers could have easily said that she got the job, which would’ve been a good step towards equality for women scientists. But they took it a step further by leaving the decision up in the air. They show that women have to fight hard to earn that equality when Bernadette reveals that she threatened to sue if her pregnancy affects the job decision. They show that things need to change.
The boys’ side of the episode also brought up a serious dilemma, but seemed much more lighthearted. Continuing from last week’s episode, they meet with Colonel Williams in Howard’s lab to discuss their guidance system. The colonel explains that the Air Force wants their system, but on a much smaller scale. Howard and Leonard aren’t sure if that’s feasible. They also share their concerns about it being used for weapons. The emphasis placed on their moral qualms versus their need for funding seems to foreshadow this situation coming to an eventual standoff later on.
The humorous part about their meeting with Colonel Williams is Sheldon. Howard and Leonard tell him to not talk at all beforehand because it enrages people. So while the other two are talking with the colonel, Sheldon is standing behind him and silently losing his mind in a hilarious reaction to the things he’s saying. Some of these points were the colonel saying engineering is better than physics, MIT minds are behind great inventions, and the Death Star comes from Star Trek. Sheldon finally breaks when the colonel says MIT scientists claim the job can be done in 4 months. He says they’ll do it in 2, and proceeds to correct everything the colonel said that he didn’t agree with.
But there’s more
Howard, Leonard, and Sheldon are going to their new lab when they discover it’s protected by a retinal scanner. This scene is funny because the boys are having fun with the scanner’s ability to recognize them by their eyes. It’s cute to watch them nerd out over science and get excited. Especially when the scanner recognizes Howard when he’s being held upside-down.
Raj doesn’t have a major role, but his shining moment comes when Howard and Leonard are packing up the lab. They’re explaining how busy they will be with the project, and Raj says that he’s going to miss them. He now knows how army wives feel when their husbands leave for the military. Howard calls him silly, and in turn Raj tells Leonard, “He is so afraid of his feelings.”
It’s a small exchange, but another hilarious testament to how close Raj and Howard are as friends.
There was a small scene where the two storylines collide which was funny, yet significant to character development. Penny comes into apartment 4A to find Sheldon there and they share why people are mad at them. Sheldon apologizes to her after asking why her situation would make him feel any better, and then sincerely asks why Bernadette is mad at her. However subtle, this shows growth in maturity and empathy for him from the start of the series.
“The Military Miniaturization” is a prime example of the type of episodes that make up the series’ comedic and scientific backbone. It presented the characters with challenges that will last them awhile. It also brought back the show’s natural, easy-going humor for the season. The science has returned, and so have our favorite nerds.